Ep. 41: Islamic Holidays #4: The Birth of the Prophet

Celebrating the birth of our beloved Prophet ﷺ has been a custom of Muslim communities ever since the time of the Companions. To celebrate and commemorate his birth is to ultimately show thanks and gratitude to God for sending him ﷺ to us as a mercy. There is much to be thankful and happy for on this blessed occasion and over the ages it has served as a source of great spiritual outpouring from scholars and sages to the average pious Muslim.

 

 

Quran Mentioned
The chapter of the Elephant (chapter 105)
“We have not sent you except as a mercy to mankind” (21:107)

 

Hadith Mentioned
“I am a merciful gift” (al-Dārimī & al-Bayhaqi)

 

Selected Links
Blog post on the legality of the Mawlid
Seera books in English

  1. Revelation: The Story of Muhammad
  2. Muhammad: His life Based on the Earliest Sources
  3. Seera of Shibli Nomani

Portrait of a Prophet
Khaṣā’iṣ Book of Suyuti
Shifa of Qadi Iyad

Celebrating the Birth of the Prophet


Celebrating the birth of our beloved Prophet ﷺ has been a custom of Muslim communities ever since the time of the Companions. To celebrate and commemorate his birth is to ultimately show thanks and gratitude to God for sending him ﷺ to us as a mercy. There is much to be thankful and happy for on this blessed occasion and over the ages it has served as a source of great spiritual outpouring from scholars and sages to the average pious Muslim. It has been the cause of much love and exquisite poetry as well as the inspiration of hundreds, if not thousands, of books on the subject of the Prophet of mercyﷺ.

The occasion of the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has also been the subject of attack by a deviant few who have allowed themselves to succumb to false calls of piety ultimately reducing the arena of scholarship to that which is known only by a direct literalism that confines knowledge and understanding. Our tradition is built on the textual authenticity of the Qur’an, the word of God, as well as the corpus of Hadith literature. These serve as the primary sources of Islam and there is no dispute in them. Whatever they command is for us to act upon swiftly and whatever they forbid is for us to avoid. However, both consensus (ijmā’) and analogy (qiyās) are part of our tradition and have guided the scholars in understanding and interpreting the primary sources. Those who reject this methodology ultimately reduce their understanding of our tradition to certain eras and certain scholars, failing to see how these eras and scholars fit within the context of the tradition. In other words, they fail to see how others have critiqued them over the ages. To reject the methodology of the tradition is to err greatly and fall into heterodoxy.

Unfortunately, we live in age when we have lost touch with orthodoxy and our tradition and we have allowed these deviant few to spread their false and contorted understanding well beyond their numbers. This has caused much confusion within our global community and specifically it has cast doubt on the issue of celebrating the birth of our beloved Prophet ﷺ. My purpose here is to provide some insight into this matter by citing the text-proofs of our scholars regarding the permissibility and purpose of celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Sunni Scholars and their Opinions on Celebrating the Mawlid

Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449):
Ibn Hajar was a Shafi‘i jurist and a hadith master (hafiḍ) and received the title of Commander of the Faithful in hadith. He is most famous for his extensive commentary of Sahih Bukhari “Fatḥ al-Bāri fi Sharḥ Sahih al-Bukhārī”.

Ibn Hajar’s proof-text is found in the story when the Messenger of God ﷺ found the Jews of Madina fasting on the day of ‘Ashura’. Upon inquiring as to why they fasted, he was told that the Jews fasted in gratitude for the safe passing of the Jews and Moses from Pharaoh. The Messenger of God ﷺ responded: “we have more of a right to Moses” and fasted. Ibn Hajar said that this text demonstrates that one can fast as a source of gratitude for an event and extends this to celebrate and show thanks for the birth of the Prophet ﷺwho should cause even more gratitude from Muslims.

Imam Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505):
Suyuti was a Shafi‘I mujtahid Imam and also a hadith master (hafiḍ). He was a scholar of the highest caliber and authored over six hundred works.

Suyuti cites the text narrated in the collection of Bayhaqi that the Prophet ﷺ did a sacrifice for newborns (‘aqiqa) for himself even though it was well documented that his grandfather did this for him while he was an infant and the sacrifice for newborns need not be repeated. This shows that the Prophet ﷺ celebrated or commemorated his own birth.

Ibn Taymiya (d. 728/1328):
Ibn Taymiya is the well-known Hanbali scholar from Damascus. He authored many works and was imprisoned as a result of some of his writings in theology (‘aqida), which were considered to have some heterodox points by other orthodox scholars. Despite this controversy that exists up until today, his writings in jurisprudence are widely read.

Ibn Taymiya is often been hailed as the champion of the pure sunna by those who have considered practices such as the mawlid forbidden. Contrary to this, Ibn Taymiya himself held the permissibility of the mawlid and even said that those who engage in it with good practices will be rewarded for it. One should be careful in consulting the legal opinions of the Ibn Taymiya since some additions, notably those published in some of the Gulf countries, have censored these sections.

Individual Texts

1. The Prophet ﷺ was asked about fasting on Mondays and he replied that he was born on a Monday and he fasted for that reason.

2. The most famous text dealing with celebrating the birth of the Prophet ﷺ is that Abu Lahab, the uncle of the Prophet ﷺ was seen in a dream by al-Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Mutalab. Abu Lahab was asked about his state and he said “I am in the fire of hell except that every Monday I am given a small portion of water as a result of freeing my slave girl Thuwayba out of happiness on hearing of the birth of the Prophet ﷺ”. This hadith is found in Bukhari in the Book of Marriage.

This Hadith is graded rigorously authentic (saḥīḥ) even though it is a ḥadīth-mursal meaning in its chain a companion is missing. The aḥādīth-mursala have been accepted absolutely by the Hanafi, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of jurisprudence and they have been accepted with certain conditions in the Shafi‘i school. However, this discussion of the authority (ḥujja) of the ḥadīth-mursal only applies if the text is being used to establish a ruling (ḥukm). In this case the text is being used to establish the great rank and station of the Prophet ﷺ since the love of him, even by a disbeliever, benefits. This is the conclusion that Ibn Hajjar draws after a lengthy discussion of this hadith in his commentary on Bukhari.

Based on this text al-Hafiḍ Shams al-Din ibn Muhammad Nasir al-Dimishqi said:

If this is a kafir whose damnation has been proclaimed

With “Perish the hands.”(Quran XI) in the hell fire for eternity

It has been transmitted to us that on Mondays always

His punishment is made lighter for his joy with Ahmad

What does one think, then, of the slave whose whole life

Is made joyful by Ahmad and he dies as a monotheist?

This glimpse into our tradition should make it clear that the ways the scholars looked at celebrating the birth of the Prophet ﷺ is something that is firmly rooted in textual proof and therefore well established.

Innovation and the Mawlid

Despite these texts and scholarly opinions, there are those who have claimed that celebrating the birth of the Prophet ﷺ is an innovation (bid‘a). This, more than anything, has caused negative opinions, especially in the pat few decades, towards the mawlid.

Innovation for Muslims is a serious matter since the Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said, “Every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the hell fire”. However, scholars mentioned that this text refers to innovation that is forbidden and is not to be applied to all newly invented matters. These scholars demonstrate that innovation is a neutral word meaning that something can be a good innovation and something can be a bad innovation. Accordingly, they state that innovation takes the five rulings in Shari‘a meaning that an innovation can either be: necessary (wājib), prohibited (ḥarām), recommended (mandūb), permissible (mubāḥ), or reprehensible (makrūh). Why is this demarcation necessary? Because everything that is not found literally and verbatim during the time of the Prophet ﷺ is an innovation, such as the compilation of the Qur’an into a musḥaf, the building of schools and hospitals, the studying of Arabic, etc. The scholars accordingly gave the above explanation to show that what is meant by the Prophet’s statement that every innovation is misguidance etc, is that prohibited innovation is not welcome in our tradition. This understanding of bid‘a is what is found in the works of al-‘Izz ibn Abd al-Salam and other great scholars of our tradition.

As for the mawlid itself, it should be clear from the above examples that the scholars consider it a good innovation as long as what occurs during the gathering is permissible by Shari’a. One should do their best to emulate the Prophet ﷺ and make the gathering one of knowledge and invocation.

The Purpose of the Mawlid

Lastly, it is important to take a step back and realize why one should celebrate the birth of the Prophet ﷺ. Without his birth there would be no mercy and no guidance in this world. We would not have a living example of peace and love to follow; we would have no example of a refined human being.  The Prophet ﷺ represents for us the connection between humanity and Reality. By following his way we are promised to reach our ultimate goal. By sending prayers and salutations on our beloved ﷺ we are protected from calamity and connect ourselves to that which is timeless and ultimately real.

 

Ep. 40: Thoughts on Islam and the Workplace, pt. 2

A follow up from my previous discussion on issues related to practicing Islam in the workplace. We spend an enormous time of our lives working and the transition from student to worker/employee can offer many challenges. This episode discuss some simple top-tier issues, and I hope to get deeper in a follow up episode or two. Enjoy!

 

 

Quran Mentioned
“No soul bears the sins of another.” 35:18
“To you is your faith, and to me is mine” 109:6
“no compulsion in religion.’ 2:256

 

Hadith Mentioned
“The smell of a fasting person’s mouth is more beloved to God than the smell of musk”, Bukhari & Muslim
“Traveling is a form of torture”, Bukhari
“all of you are shepherds and responsible for your flock.” Bukhari & Muslim
“begin with yourself, then those nearest you.” Muslim
“Whoever does not concern themselves with the affairs of the Muslims is not from them” Muslim

 

Selected Links
Hippocratic Oath

Ep. 39: Islamic Principles #10: Plurality in Islamic Law

An advantage and a challenge within Islamic law is the great diversity of opinions. This itself stems from the over 80 schools of jurisprudence that have existed throughout Islamic legal history. In this episode I explore how we can practically deal with this diversity and plurality and explain why it is one of the greatest blessings and assets we have.

 

 

People Mentioned
Imam Shafi
Muhammad Abdu

 

 

Selected Links
Taqlid
Ijtihad
Dar Ifta of Egypt
Hanafi Scool
Ottoman Empire
Ibadi School
Ẓāhiri Scool
Zaydi School
J’afari School

Ep. 38: Thoughts on Islam and the Work Place

This podcast is by request from a listener and focuses on issues related to practicing Islam in the workplace. We spend an enormous time of our lives working and the transition from student to worker/employee can offer many challenges. This episode discuss some simple top-tier issues, and I hope to get deeper in a follow up episode or two. Enjoy!

 

Quran Mentioned
“And from His signs is the creation of the heavens and earths and the differences in your tongues and race. Indeed these are signs for all humankind.” (30:22)

Hadith Mentioned
Hadith of the Prophet (God bless him and give him peace) combining prayers in Madina for no reason: Sahih Muslim

Ep. 37: Celebrations and Holidays #3: The Month of Ṣafar

Ṣafar is the second month of the Islamic lunar calendar. There is a weak hadith narrated by Ibn ‘Abbās that states, “On the last Wednesday of the month [of Ṣafar] there is a continual calamity.” In other hadiths it is mentioned that this is the day during which Pharaoh and his army perished, and the people of ‘Ād and Thumūd were destroyed. Accordingly, there emerged from these texts various supplications and prayers to meet these historic, calamitous events with prayers and devotion.

 

Episode Notes:

Check out the blog post I put together on these devotional acts.

Ep. 36: Islamic Principles #9: The Meta-Goals of Islamic Law

After the formation and codification of Islamic law, jurists turned to articulating what the meta-goals of the law were. These five meta-goals serve as a reminder to the jurist and layperson alike that any form of Islam that violates or harms one or more of these, is an Islam that is fundamentally incompatible with Prophetic guidance.

 

 

 

Quran Mentioned
“We have created you into nations and tribes in order to know one another” (49:13)
“to you is your faith, and to me is mine” (109:6)
“whoever wills let them believe, whoever doesn’t, do not let them believe” (18:29)
“there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256)
“We have honored the human being” (17:70)
“…churches, temples, and mosques where God’s name is mentioned” (22:40)

Hadith Mentioned
“My community has been forgiven for mistakes, forgetfulness, and being forced to act.” (Ibn Majah & al-Bayhaqi)
“wisdom is the lost property of the believer” (al-Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah)

 

Devotional Acts for the month of Ṣafar

Ṣafar is the second month of the Islamic lunar calendar. There is a weak hadith narrated by Ibn ‘Abbās that states, “On the last Wednesday of the month [of Ṣafar] there is a continual calamity.” In other hadiths it is mentioned that this is the day during which Pharaoh and his army perished, and the people of ‘Ād and Thumūd were destroyed.  Accordingly, there emerged from these texts various supplications and prayers to meet these historic, calamitous events with prayers and devotion. It should be made clear that these devotions, prayers, and supplications are not necessarily based on a specific Sunna, but are themselves compliant with the Sunna since we are allowed to engage in extra devotions and supplications. This falls under the general legal principle that any increase in worship (using devotions found in the Sunna is permissible).

In light of this, the following are recommendations to perform and recite on the last Wednesday of of the month of Ṣafar.

 

1.   To pray the following prayer on the last Wednesday during the month of Ṣafar: four units of prayer after Fajr prayer (i.e. Ḍuḥa time) and before ”Asr prayer with one salām. In each unit of prayer recite the Fātiḥa once and surah al-Kawthar (17 times), surah al-Ikhlāṣ (5 times), surah al-Falaq (one time), and surah al-Nās (one time).

2.   After this prayer, recite the following supplication three times:

     بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم – يا شديد القُوَى – يا شديد المِحال – يا عزيزُ يا كريمُ – ذََّت لِعزَّتِك جَميع خلقك – اكفِنىِ من جَميعِ خَلقِكَ يا مُحسِنُ – يا مُجمِلُ – يا مُفَصِّلُ – يا مُنعِمُ – يا مُكرِمُ – يا لا إله إلا أنتَ  بِرحمَتِكَ يا أرحمَم الراحمِين

Bismillah al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm – Yā Shadīd al-Quwa-yā shadīd al-Miḥāl – ya ‘Azīz ya Karīm – Dhalat li ‘Izatika Jamī’ Khalqik – Ikfinī min Jamī’ Khalqika ya Muḥsin ya Mujmil ya Mufaṣṣil ya Mun’im ya Mukrim ya lā ilāha illa Ant biraḥmatika ya Arḥam ak-Rāḥimīn.

 

3.   Recite the following 360 times:

و اللهُ غَلِبٌ على أمرِهِ و لاكِنَّ أكثَرَ النَّسِ لا يَعلمون

wa Allahu Ghālibun ‘ala Amrihi wa lākinna Akthara al-Nāsī lā y’alamūn

 

4.   Then write with one’s fingers the following verses in a bowl full of water, then drink the water:

سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ نُوحٍ فِي الْعَالَمِينَ (*) إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ (*) كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ مُوسَىٰ وَهَارُونَ (*) إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

سَلَامٌ عَلَىٰ إِلْ يَاسِينَ (*) إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

سَلَامٌ قَوْلًا مِّن رَّبٍّ رَّحِيمٍ

سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ طِبْتُمْ فَادْخُلُوهَا خَالِدِينَ

سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُم بِمَا صَبَرْتُمْ ۚ فَنِعْمَ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ

سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ

 

 

 

 

Ep. 35: Islamic Principles #8: Renewing Usul al-Fiqh

One of the greatest achievements of Islamic intellectual history is Uṣūl al-Fiqh (Principles of Jurisprudence). This is not only a science and discipline that helps us interpret the Quran and Sunna, it is also a system of thinking based on first principles. While we are heirs to this great tradition, we are also in need of updating and advancing this body of study to keep up the modern challenges.

 

 

Quran Mentioned
“And from His signs that He created you from a single male and female.” (30:21)

Selected Links
Dinar and Dirham
Fiat currency
Moriscos

Ep. 34: Islamic Principles #7: Abrogation

Abrogation, while a technical subject in the science of jurisprudence, has a significant impact in how we understand the Quran today. In this episode I am openly promoting a certain interpretation that there is not abrogation in the Quran. While an acceptable interpretive opinion, it was always a minority one. This is changing today amongst senior clerics, and I hope this discussion makes it clear why.

https://soundcloud.com/makingsenseofislam/ep-34-islamic-principles-7-abrogation

Quran Mentioned
“We have revealed Quran and We alone preserved it” (15:9)
“We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten, except that we bring something better than it” 2:106
“To you is your religion and to me is my religion”(109:6)
“Whoever wants let them believe, and whoever does not, don’t believe.” (18:29)

Hadith Mentioned
“I used to forbid you from visiting the graveyards, but now you should go visit them.” (Muslim)

People Mentioned
Abdullah Ibn Siddiq al-Ghumari
Ali Gomaa
Abu Muslim al-Asfahani (d. 325AH)
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi
Al-Suyuti
Hafz ‘an Asim
Abi ‘Amr al-Basri
Ibn Kathir
Dr. Sherman Jackson